7 Reasons why your workout might not be working from a personal trainer

by Grace McCalmon

If you currently work out, you’re already doing something great for your health, and we say: “You go Glen Coco!”

But finding time for fitness is hard enough without having to wonder if you’re “doing it right”.

We sought out one of Austin’s top personal trainers, Cody Butler, founder of HEAT Boot Camp & Personal Training, to find out how we can avoid the most common workout pitfalls, and make sure we get the most out of our training days.

Written by Cody Butler, MA, NASM-CPT

1. Workout Deja Vu

If you find your workouts to be like Groundhog Day on repeat, it’s probably time to change things up. Repeating the same exercise, the same way, week after week, will ensure a plateau in the future.

If you hate working legs as much as I do, find alternate ways to target the muscle.  Try hitting pause on squats for a week, and aim for a minute or two of jump lunges instead. Your butt will love – and hate – you.

2. The Cardio Death Grip

Machines like the StairMaster, elliptical, and treadmill are meant to target your lower body, while providing one heck of a cardio workout. All too often I see people supporting themselves by hanging on the rails, reducing the amount of work their legs are actually doing.

If your knuckles are white, and your forearms are burning as much as your calves, loose the death grip and stand up without support. The next time you find yourself imitating Quasimodo, slow down the speed, turn on "Eye of the Tiger," and imagine you’re Rocky, climbing those stairs like a boss!

3. Caffeine + Cardio

Many people rely on caffeine to make it through a workout, but intense cardio movements like running, swimming, and cycling dramatically increase your heart rate. Caffeine also increases your heart rate. When you do both at the same time, it can put strain on your heart.

Additionally, caffeine fools your body into thinking it has energy. If coffee, or some other kind of stimulant, is the only way you can even think about exercising, this could be a sign that you’re worn out. Try laying off the caffeine, and assessing if your body is really up to the exercise challenge. If not, take a couple days off.

When you need a boost before you workout, aim to eat foods like fruit and nuts for energy. If you really need something to wet your whistle, stick to one cup of coffee or tea, instead of those frightening energy drinks

4. Lifting light

“I don’t like to lift heavy weights. I get too bulky.” I hear this phrase a lot. It is true that some body types respond more dramatically to weights. I call them weight-sensitive. Normally this occurs when women have a higher percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers.

But lifting heavy weights alone will not make you bulky. For that, you must pair lifting with higher calorie consumption.

If you need something to motivate you to pick up heavier weights, consider this: the more dense muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn. So work towards those double-digit dumb bells and burn, baby, burn.

5. 7-Day Schedules

Demi Moore in "G.I. Jane" was ripped! But unless you’re a Navy SEAL, or an actor portraying one, there is no reason to train seven days a week.  It’s actually counter productive to what your body needs.

Believe it or not, you can stop losing, or even gain weight, if you don’t give yourself time to rest. There is no set formula for when to take breaks. S

imply listen to your body, and give yourself at least one day a week for pure, unadulterated relaxation. If you begin to experience 1) continuous muscle fatigue or soreness, 2) loss of strength or a plateau, or 3) frequent injuries, this is a sign you are overtraining and you need to take time off.

Personally, I train three to four days and then take one day off.  If I continue to experience the warning signs, I may take three to four days off for a total reset.

6. Sugary Shakes, Juices, and Green Drinks

The nutrition gods have told us: “Make sure to replenish your body with healthy carbs, proteins, and fats post workout.”

And with smoothie bars on every corner pushing drinks named the “Power Peanut Butter,” or the “Green DeLite,” how could you know they’re not the healthiest option?

Unfortunately, many of these drinks have so much sugar that you’ll need to go back and do another round of cardio to burn them off. When refueling, remember: if it tastes like cookie dough, cake batter, or PB&J, it’s probably not the type of replenishment you need.

And don’t be fooled by “green” drinks either. Many of these only contain one or two greens; the rest is high-sugar fruit. Keep an eye on the ingredients in your post-workout drink.

Make sure there is some fat, a generous serving of protein (around 20g), and watch the sugar and overall calorie content. 1,500 calories – even if it is fruits and veggies – is too much for most people.

7. Jumping the Cardio Gun

One of the top questions fitness folks get asked is: “Which should I do first, cardio or weights?” I say weights.

By doing intense cardio first, you will naturally expend more resources, and, in return, your body will be less effective when attempting to do the weight training portion of your workout.

A simple warm up leading into your resistance training is great to get the blood flowing, but, in my opinion, you should save your cardio for last. If you’re craving a run, or another high-intensity cardio workout, give your body what it wants and save the weights for another day.

About Cody Butler - Founder, Co-Owner, Lead Coach of HEAT Bootcamp & Personal Training.

I have worked as a personal trainer for nine years, and I also hold a masters degree in counseling from Texas State University. I believe this is the essential piece to being a great trainer. For me, the mind-body connection is crucial to the training process.

As the founder and creator of HEAT, I incorporate dynamic fitness training with psychological wellness. Whether dealing with issues of anxiety, depression, or self-esteem, it is my job to be both a teacher and motivator for my clients; to help them make the fundamental mind-body-spirit connection that leads to true motivation and transformation.

Know anyone who’s stuck in a workout rut? Share this with them!

What are your top fitness tips? We’d love to hear in the comments!


Posted on September 29, 2015

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Grace McCalmon

Grace is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) and a graduate of Duke University. She received her nutrition certification from the Nutritional Therapy Association, and her training is based on the work of Dr. Weston A Price, as well as the latest peer-reviewed, scientific research.